Your septic system's leach field -- also called a drain field or absorption field -- is arguably one of the most important components of your septic system. The leach field is responsible for keeping liquid levels in your tank stable by letting excess liquid drain out and absorb into the soil nearby.
This prevents you from having to frequently empty your tank. Maintenance on a leach field is more difficult than on the tank itself, and repairs or replacements can get pricey quickly. If you've recently had a septic system installed, here's how you can take the best care of your leach field.
Keep The Field Site Clear
Your leach field is essentially a bunch of small pipes running horizontally several inches underground. They are full of small holes, which lets excess liquid from your tank drain out and get absorbed into the soil nearby. Because of their size and proximity to the surface, it's important to keep the area above your leach field clear of any debris or plant life with deep root systems.
Roots can break pipes or otherwise clog them, making them less effective, and causing your tank to fill more quickly and require emptying more often. Some plants and grasses are fine, and may even be beneficial, but do research to be safe.
For this reason, it's also a good idea to avoid driving or parking any vehicles on the ground above the leach field. Heavy weights could cause damage to the pipes which could result in flooding.
Avoid Draining Too Much Into Your Tank
Though your leach field helps get rid of excess liquid, there's a limit to how much liquid the surrounding soil can absorb at once. Whenever possible, try to keep water use low, or at least spread out over time rather than dumping lots of water into your tank at once. Remember that just about everything in your home, from sinks and showers to appliances, will empty into your tank, so help keep things running smoothly by moderating your water use.
It's also helpful to remember this limitation when it's raining, as this makes the leach field much less effective even with minimal water use.
Empty Your Tank Regularly
One of the main problems that can lead to a damaged or unsalvageable leach field is an overflowing tank. The fullness of a tank has less to do with liquids and more to do with sludge and scum; while liquids can pass through the leach field and be absorbed into the soil, sludge and scum will clog the pipes. They usually sink lower while liquids rise to the top, so it's ordinarily not an issue -- but if a tank goes too long without being emptied, it will get so full of sludge and scum that this waste will start to seep into your leach field.
How often you should empty your tank really depends on how often you use it; while it's safe to get it emptied every few years, if you live alone or are very conscious about how much is drained into your tank, you can safely get away with more time in between service calls.
With a new septic installation, however, have your tank at least inspected every few years until you've established what works best for you. The money spent on inspections is well worth avoiding the cost of replacing an entire leach field.